The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minister on Chopra mission

Calcutta, April 30: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today despatched Asok Bhattacharya, minister and senior CPM leader from north Bengal, to Chopra in North Dinajpur where violence erupted following the death of a CPM functionary for a first-hand assessment of the situation and measures needed to restore normality.

The urban development minister left this evening by Darjeeling Mail for Chopra, where three CPM supporters were killed and nine others injured in police firing this afternoon.

“The chief minister spoke to me on the incident and I will try to reach Chopra as soon as I can. I shall submit a report to him on my return from the spot,” Bhattacharya said over his mobile from the train tonight.

Condemning the incident, Jyoti Basu said police should not have resorted to firing. “I am yet to get the details of the incident but the police should have dispersed the mob without taking recourse to firing,” he said.

The firing was a sequel to the death of a key district CPM committee member, Akbar Ali, who succumbed to his injuries after being battered by Congress workers. After Ali died, the police arrested 15 Congress workers, including local MLA Hamidur Rahman.

As news of the death spread, angry CPM workers tried to storm the police outpost where the arrested Congress workers were lodged, triggering the firing.

All policemen at the Lalbazar outpost have been transferred, inspector-general of police (north Bengal) Bhupinder Singh said tonight. A new batch of policemen has taken over.

Singh held a meeting with district CPM leaders at the Chopra police station to try and bring the situation under control. No Congress leaders were invited to the meeting.

As tempers frayed over the incident, a group of CPM supporters stopped Priya Ranjan Das Munshi’s car at Mallickpur More near Dalkhola in North Dinajpur when he was returning from a Congress rally at Goalpukur.

Drawn by the cries for help from his driver Kanu Dutta, who was beaten up, a group of Congress workers rushed to their rescue. Dalkhola outpost officer-in-charge Bipul Biswas also reached there on a receiving a phone call and rescued the Congress MP. Das Munshi filed an FIR against the CPM.

Reacting to Ali’s death, state CPM secretary Anil Biswas said the Congress had engineered the attack to disrupt peace before the panchayat elections. He said a statewide protest day would be observed on Friday.

Political observers said the incident will come in handy for the CPM to counter allegations by the Trinamul Congress and some Left Front partners that the party has “unleashed a reign of terror” in the run-up to the panchayat polls.

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